Proper nouns

Learn about the names of people, places and organisations and do the exercises to practise using them.

Level: beginner

Names of people, places and organisations are called proper nouns. We spell proper nouns with a capital letter:

Muhammad Ali Birmingham China Oxford University the United Nations

We use capital letters for festivals:

Christmas Deepavali Easter Ramadan Thanksgiving

We use capital letters for people's titles:

I was talking to Doctor Wilson recently.
Everything depends on President Obama.

When we give the names of books, films, plays and paintings, we use capital letters for the nouns, adjectives and verbs in the name:

I have been reading The Old Man and the Sea.
Beatrix Potter wrote
The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
You can see the
Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

Level: intermediate

Sometimes we use a person's name to refer to something they have created:

Recently a Van Gogh was sold for 15 million dollars.
We were listening to Mozart.
I'm reading an Agatha Christie.

Proper nouns


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Hello Sourav Bhatia,

A 'run' is discrete in a way that 'running' is not. For example, many people who run for exercise 'go on a run' several times a week. 'a run' is usually a specific amount of time or a specific route they take.

'running', on the other hand, is the activity of running in general. For example, if we speak about different kinds of exercise someone likes, we'd say 'running'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello I want to know this What type of noun is this...a box of chocolates- collective or compound- common noun Separately box is common noun/ collective?
Hi, Learn English Team, I wonder why there is no comment section under the Noun Phrases page. I believe there are lots of English learner who have questions on that subject. I wanted to ask a question about a sentence on your page but I haven't done it. Best wishes,

Hi knowman,

I'm not sure why the page didn't have a comments section. I've added one now so you can post your question.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Sir I want some help to solve that confusions We know that If we start a sentence with beginning of Here & There we use inversion when Here/There follow a Noun/Noun Phrase but when they follow a pronoun we can't do that. Why Here we go.(No inversion) Here comes the bus.(Inversion) There she goes.(No Inversion) There was a king.(Inversion) Sir, I want to know the difference of using them.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I'm afraid I don't quite understand your question. We use pronouns to avoid having to repeat a noun or noun phrase multiple times, but it must refer to something which is already known and identified. Beyond that, I'm not sure what you mean by differences in use.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,Sir I have a doubt regarding to use of proper noun. we know that we can't use any determiner before Proper Noun. 1. There were two kings. 2. There are two Lucy. In 1st sentence verb is agree with its subject. Like the 1st, Is the 2nd verb is agree with its subject? Now the question is that the 2nd sentence is right or wrong. is this sentence right or wrong ?

Hello Kapil Kabir,

We capitalise words like king when we are using them in place of a name to refer to a particular person and not just to anyone who has that title. Thus we would write:

I will speak to King George for you. [capitalised because it is used with the name and refers to a particular individual]

I will speak to the King for you. [capitalised because it refers to a particular individual even though the name is not used]


A bad king is a disaster for everyone. [not capitalised because it is refers to the position and not to an individual]

Thus, a word like king can be a proper noun but can also be a regular noun.


It is possible to use names as plurals, but they are always capitalised:

In my group I have three Pauls, two Johns, two Marys and six Lucys! Can you believe it?

Your second example is not correct because Lucy should be plural: Lucys.



The LearnEnglish Team

I searched “jean” and “jeans”, i found meaning of both. In part Things With Two Parts, it’s written that jeans don’t have singular form?

Hello MBenham,

When we talk about the item of clothing, 'jeans' is always plural.

In British English, there is no singular form. To talk about the material, we use the word 'denim'.

A search for 'jean' in the Cambridge Dictionary gives no entry:


In other dialects of English, it may be that there is a use of the singular form, but it is certainly not common.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Today, my colleagues have a discussion session about the following two sentences: 1- Half of the staff in my school are/is under the age of 40. 2- All the staff are/is invited to the meeting. 3- Our staff meet, meets to discuss the company’s progress. Some say that "singular verb" and "plural verb" are both correct. But others argue that only "plural verbs" is correct with the words such as "all", "half", "some", "rest". Which one is grammatically correct? Thank you.
Hello Ahmed Imam, The verb agrees with the noun, so if the noun is countable and plural then a plural verb is used. If the noun is countable singular or uncountable then a singular verb is used. For example: Half of the cheese is gone! [cheese=uncountable so a singular verb is needed] Half of the people are missing! [people=plural so a plural verb is needed] ~ The complicating factor in your examples is that the noun 'staff' can be used as a singular noun or a plural noun, similar to 'team', 'police', 'government' and so on. Thus, both singular and plural are possible. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team
Could you help me with the following? - In the sentences like 'Recently a Van Gogh was sold for fifteen million dollars.' / 'We were listening to Mozart.' / 'I’m reading an Agatha Christie.' - are the words 'Van Gogh' / 'Mozart' / 'Agatha Christie.' still considred to be proper nouns?

Hello oyc,

Yes, they are and that is why they are capitalised. The figure of speech here is metonymy, which means describing a thing or concept by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept. For example, in informal language a pejorative term for 'business people' is 'suits':

Half a dozen suits were waiting for me when I arrived.


When the thing referred to is a proper noun, it retains its capitalisation:

Congress has passed the law and now the White House must decide whether to sign it or veto it.

Here, 'the White House' means 'the President'.


Silicon Valley is an important part of the world economy.

'Silicon Vally' means 'the tech/computer industry'



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teachers I have a question about the word "high street". I found on the internet that this word is widely used as a proper noun beginning with the capital letter like "High Street". But is it also possible to use it as a common noun, too? In other word, are these sentences interchangeable, maintaining the same meaning? 1.) It is wise of the bird to build its nest in a tree on a "busy" street. 2.) It is wise of the bird to build its nest in a tree on a "high" street. (The first one is the example sentence I saw in my English class.) Thank you, Best Regards

Hello Ysato201602

Yes, some streets are named 'High Street', but in British English, the 'high street' also refers to a street or area where the most important or famous shops are located.

Both of your sentences are correct (though we usually say 'the high street') and mean mostly the same thing. The difference is that there are many busy streets in a city, but only one high street.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir Are nail and bread material noun? And leg, hand arm and face are proper noun? would you please help me? Thanks in advance.

Hello AminulIslam.,

Proper nouns are names of people or institutions of some kind. They begin with capital letters. For example:


The United Nations

the British Council



I understand that you have a task from somewhere else which asks you to categorise the items you listed in your previous post but I think this is probably a set of categories created by the authors of the task rather than one widely recognised in linguistic study. I'm afraid we can't help you with the task.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir I don't know what kind of nouns these words are. 1.Face,arm, hair,nose,mouth,hand,leg, belly. 2.Sweet, sour. 3.Bread, nail etc. would you please explain the words in details.
Could you please help me? We have an argument about the following: (The - Zero article) teachers at my school are very clever. Which one is correct and why? Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The phrase 'at my school' defines a particular group of teachers, so I think 'the' is likely:

The teachers at my school are very clever.


It would be possible to use no article if you wanted to make a general statement about teachers at your school in order to contrast a particular group of them. For example:

Teachers at my school are generally very clever. However, the ones who arrived this year are not clever at all!



The LearnEnglish Team